Wow have I got a problem - Help Please!!!
First let me say that I have had horses for many years, but I am by no means an expert. This problem certainly proves that. If this seems a little long, it is because I want to be sure you understand the situation completely.
It concerns our youngest horse, a 3year old paint named “Sacred Princess” (she is the daughter of Sacred Indian). She has had no ‘formal’ training. She came to us when she was just under 1 year old, and our vet advised us to wait until she was at least 3 to begin formal riding training.
So, in the meantime, I have worked with her doing ground work. I taught her to lead, whoa, back and yield from the ground. I taught her to enter and exit a trailer. I taught her to accept being bathed on a wash rack, and I taught her to lift her feet for cleaning. I thought she was really coming along. Over time I conditioned her to allow me to put a pad and saddle on her as we as a bridle (she has allowed this for more than 1 ½ years now) and I was just about to start putting weight on the saddle, preparing her for riding training. I have also successfully cured her of biting, which she did when we first got her. I have also trained her to wear a blanket in winter and a full face mask in summer (we are in Florida and she is white, so her face is easily sunburned.) All of our horses are pastured for most of the day and brought into the barn twice a day for feeding and if the weather is very bad.
The problem started 2 weeks ago. I was washing her on the wash rack as I have done hundreds of times before (she gets bathed 1 – 3 times per week). This time, however, for some reason she crowded me against one of the poles as I was scrubbing her. My reaction was to poke her in the ribs to 1) protect myself, and 2) show her that this was unacceptable behavior. This the first time I have ever had to do this to her. She did not react as I would have expected, but rather she pulled back and snapped the cross ties. I responded by calming her down and walking her a bit, through the wash rack. I could not re-tie her as she broke the cross ties. Anyway, after a while I put her in her stall and fed everyone as usual. A few days later, it was time once again for her bath. I took her out to the wash rack as normal and tied her up. She immediately pulled back and broke the cross ties. Obviously she had learned that she could do this. Again I calmed her down but this time I did not feed her immediately afterwards, thinking that was establishing a reward for bad behavior. (As you can see I am conflicted between continuing a normal routine after a bad event, and changing the routine…not sure which is best). Anyway, the next day when I brought her into the barn and tied her outside her stall, she immediately pulled back. She was unable to break the nylon lead rope but she sure tried. I calmed her down and continued with the our normal routine.
Well this morning I went out to feed them and she refused to allow me to halter her. Period. As I approached her with her halter, she pinned her ears back and even turned to kick me. I tried for over an hour to calm her but was not successful in putting her halter on. Consequently, she went unfed this morning while the other horses ate.
When then were finished, I figured she would be ready to come in and eat, but nothing doing, she became more and more aggressive and after another hour of attempting, she still would not let me put a halter on her.
My response was to isolate her in a pasture by herself now, until I can figure out what to do next.
Obviously I am, somehow, making matters worse by trying to catch her. By the way, as frustrated as I get, I am not a ‘hitter’. I try the calm talking approach as it has always worked for me in the past. But this time I am beyond frustrated. I fear the next step in the downslide is for her to actually become violent and dangerous. This is my thinking behind isolating her.
Can anyone advise me what the next step would be. I fear the 2+ years of ground work and “training” I have done can be lost in 2 weeks, and I don’t fully understand what when wrong here.
Please tell me, what do I do now?